Facebook’s Related Articles strikes at fake news while steering clear of editorial judgement

By: | Published: August 9, 2017 4:28 AM

Given how big a threat fake news has become, various social media have taken steps to eliminate it.

facebook, editorial judgementThe company recently posted that it will increasingly use machine learning to screen for hoaxes to send to fact-checkers. (Reuters)

Given how big a threat fake news has become, various social media have taken steps to eliminate it. Facebook—which was alternately criticised for doing little to stop the spread of fake news during the presidential campaign in the US last year and for allowing its own staff’s political slant to creep in to the selection of which news pieces got prominence—partnered many fact-checking services to flag potentially misleading or false articles as “disputed” in the users’ newsfeeds. Now, it has come up with a new way to fight the problem. The company has announced a new feature called Related Articles, which it began testing in April. Whenever a user sees a controversial story in her Facebook newsfeed, the Related Articles feature will show her a series of headlines from other publishers on the same topic. This is where it will also aggregate articles by third-party fact-checkers.

The company recently posted that it will increasingly use machine learning to screen for hoaxes to send to fact-checkers. Given how “fake news” has become a term to even attack the credibility of news that is against one’s partisan viewpoint, the reliance on machine learning means Facebook will have to rely less on editorial judgment, that could result in “false positives” while tagging an article as disputed. The fact that Related Articles will offer additional context and alternative perspectives on a news topic rather than tagging it as “fake” shields the company from any charge of censorship while the user’s perspective could benefit from more material. Related Articles will be no vaccine against fake news, but by not taking away the discretion from the user while offering her the contrapunto view, it has struck in the interest of healthier debate and news consumption.

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